Surprise municipal party merger sows confusion, dissent as candidate quits Lachine race

·3 min read
Balarama Holness, the leader of Mouvement Montréal, right, and Marc-Antoine Desjardins, the leader of Ralliement pour Montréal, left, announced plans to merge their parties during a news conference on Thursday. (Jérôme Labbé/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Balarama Holness, the leader of Mouvement Montréal, right, and Marc-Antoine Desjardins, the leader of Ralliement pour Montréal, left, announced plans to merge their parties during a news conference on Thursday. (Jérôme Labbé/Radio-Canada - image credit)

A mayoral candidate in the borough of Lachine has pulled out of the municipal election campaign over his party's decision to merge with Mouvement Montréal.

The announcement by Jean-François Cloutier comes a day after his party, Ralliement pour Montréal, made the surprise decision to join forces with Mouvement Montréal.

"The base of the two political parties are not compatible," Cloutier, a longtime politician who formerly served under Coderre, told CBC News. "I don't see a future in that union."

The parties announced on Thursday that Balarama Holness, of Mouvement Montréal, would still run for mayor, while Ralliement pour Montréal's Marc-Antoine Desjardins would seek to become mayor of the Outremont borough.

The two leaders offered few details on how the different parties' candidates or platforms would be joined together. In all, they are expected to field 65 candidates for 103 available posts.

Cloutier said he was not consulted ahead of the announcement of the merger.

The parties differ on several policy planks, most notably language. Mouvement Montréal has promised to seek city-state status for Montreal and make it officially bilingual.

"Mr. Holness was inclined to have a state for Montreal and I don't buy that at all," Cloutier said on Friday.

Cloutier said Ralliement pour Montréal was seen as the "francophone party," one which would strengthen the place of language in the city, and that joining with the Mouvement Montréal "made no sense."

Candidates have tough decisions ahead

Mamoun Ahmed spent today trying to figure out his next move.

Originally planning to run under the Ralliement pour Montréal banner for the Parc-Extension city councillor position, he was shocked to find out about the merger, following the news conference.

"I was not notified clearly that there was a merger," Ahmed said. "I just received a text saying there would be a news conference."

Following the announcement, Ahmed says he was told — because Mouvement Montréal already has a candidate in Parc Ex — he would be running in Ahuntsic instead.

This morning, he says he officially switched his candidacy to Mouvement in Ahuntsic but spent the day feeling uneasy. With five minutes left before the deadline to submit candidacy, Ahmed withdrew.

"I don't want to be a candidate just to be a candidate," Ahmed told CBC. "It didn't happen the way I wanted."

Another Ralliement candidate, Patricia Tulasne, who is running for mayor of Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, said she would remain under the merged banner.

But only, she told Radio-Canada, after she had received assurance Holness had agreed to back down on certain issues she considers non-negotiable, including his proposed city-state status and reallocating funding from the police to social services.

Repeated requests for comment from Mouvement and Holness have gone unanswered..

Merger met with skepticism

The decision to merge the two parties, only a day before the deadline for candidates, has been met with skepticism by some supporters on both sides.

"You have lost all credibility," one person wrote in reply to Desjardin's tweet about the merger.

"I really don't understand how you think this is a good idea," said another.

At least one Mouvement Montréal candidate said they were not consulted ahead of the merger either.

"When I woke up, I had a text from Balarama saying that there was going to be a press conference and Marc-Antoine Desjardins and Ralliement pour Montréal are going to join our party," said Sam Donald, who is running for city councillor in the Sud Ouest's St. Paul – Émard– St. Henri O. district.

Donald, though, welcomed the merger.

"I do trust the leadership of Mouvement Montréal, especially for these quick decisions, consulting everybody in the party isn't always feasible," Donald said.

"As soon as they did announce it, they made sure my concerns were heard, particularly that our policy will stay the same."

Jy Nanda, who was the Ralliement candidate running for borough mayor of Verdun, said on Friday that the merger was in the "best interest of Montrealers."

"We're still waiting for the merging details to go through, but we're standing behind our leader, who is Marc-Antoine," said Nanda.

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